Interior of Sea-Tac Airport people mover vehicle

This is an open thread.

137 Replies to “News Roundup: Final Design”

    1. Couldn’t agree more and considering the benefit cost analysis wasn’t even within the TIGER guidelines the loss wasn’t much of a surprise.

      The sad reality is Seattle passed up some very worthy projects in order to back an application that looked like it was put together during a last minute Pronto/Kubly all-nighter.

    2. So now could we please make the bridge top priority for local funding, and not put Pronto expansion ahead of it?

      1. The bridge will be funded once move Seattle passes. No one expected (though some did hope) federal funding would contribute a dime.

      2. That’s great if it’ll be totally funded. But do you have a source for that? What I’ve heard is that Move Seattle just provides more incremental funding.

      3. @William C
        Unless the cost estimates have gone out the window, last I heard we needed roughly $25 million.

        Sound Transit and SDOT provided $5m each, the state is kicking in $10m and I believe Move Seattle promised $15m.

        If Move Seattle passes, we should have more than enough and some resources will likely be reallocated somewhere else.

      4. Source is Lindblom at the Times.

        “Sound Transit already approved $5 million, and the Legislature $10 million, along with $5 million already pledged by Seattle. That leaves a gap of $6 million. If voters pass this fall’s $930 million Move Seattle property-tax levy, the city’s plan would allocate $15 million to Northgate, pushing it past the goal line.”

      5. Although it appears that we’ll have enough local funding to build the bridge, I am still grumpy at the lack of federal funding. I won’t say that Tacoma shouldn’t have received $15 million for the Tacoma Link extension, but when both are in operation, I will be VERY interested to know if more pedestrians and bicyclists cross the bridge than use the Tacoma Link extension. We’ll see.

      6. Would it help at all if you already had 1,100 feet of bridge trusses available, and just needed to update the pavement on top of the bridge?

        You see, we happen to have a bridge over the Willamette River for sale down here.

        The steel trusses are in decent shape for having been in service for 90 years. The issue is that the concrete bridge piers of 1925 didn’t hold up so well (concrete was sort of a new thing in those days), so the whole thing needs to be replaced because the concrete holding it up is bad.

        So, when the project is done, we’ll have 1,100 feet of two lane road bridge with trusses and a sidewalk and light posts for sale.

        It’s already been moved once, but the section that moved the longest distance only moved about 100 feet.

  1. At the rate SeaTac is growing, especially with the plans to expand the international terminal area, I hope there will be better signage to Link, as well as a moving walkway that is now long overdue.

    1. +1 for better signage (some multi-lingual signage would be nice too). Maybe a glass wind-screen to better shelter the walk to the terminal – it can get rather bitter if it is windy. Also, more ticket machines are needed given the number of visitors using Link at the airport.

      I’m not sure about a moving walkway, however.

      If the walkways are wide enough and people actually walk, not stand, they can be somewhat faster. But it doesn’t usually seem to be that way at airports. There are lots of standees, people with extra luggage, kids goofing around, etc. That can make using the walkway slower than ordinary walking. Also, the capital and operating costs would be high – I’d rather see that money invested in something more useful, like better signage. Finally, moving walkways have a tendency to break down (as any frequent airport visitor knows) which makes them much less useful than ordinary pavement. I don’t mind the walk – before a long flight and especially after one it is nice to stretch my legs.

      1. I never understood why they put the light rail station so far away anyway. You were already spending billions of dollars, why not build the station closer to the terminal?

      2. That has been discussed many times over on this blog and the general consensus is that the location is a good one.

      3. Where was there room closer to the terminal? They would have had to either demolish a large chunk of the parking garage and rebuild it or tunnel underground and have a long elevator ride up. The latter option would have vastly increased the price tag, and might not be any faster anyway, as elevators are notoriously bad at handling large crowds.

        In an ideal world, the light rail airport station would have been built at the same time as the airport itself, and everyone would have been happy. In the world we have, where the airport is built first and the light rail is bolted on decades later, what we have is what we have.

      4. The station was going to be built right next to a new terminal, but after 9/11 the feds got scared about a station so close to airport terminals and forced it to the periphery.

      5. Jason, I think I read once (probably on this blog) that the Port (who owns the airport) and Sound Transit (light rail) couldn’t agree to put the train closer to the airport, so ST put it where it could. “Security reasons” also had a factor.

        Overall I don’t mind the location. it seems to be easier for buses and taxis/ride service cars to drop people off, but it’s a bit of a walk for the elderly, disabled, etc.

        Some comments in this post ( talk about the walkway, distance, location, and other things when the station opened. Fun to read about its opening.

      6. Don’t forget that Link will continue further into south King County. The current station location is more “on the way”. If there was a way to have a more central airport station without adding travel time for everyone going further south…

        I read that a moving walkway in the garage is not possible because the garage floors lack vertical clearance for all the machinery (see how thick those escalators are? And how low the garage ceiling is?).

      7. The only things I could’ve seen are lowering the station with less distance from the mezzanine to the road and the rails above and probably more center to the garage maybe just a slight deviation leftward. Other that that, other alternatives would have been outrageously expensive and not serve the goal of connecting South King County. I would have preferred a more straight connector to reduce the walking distance and maybe at the center for the garage. and a bit further west and lower, other than those three things, not much else.

      8. the general consensus is that the location is a good one.

        My recollection of those discussions is rather different. From what I recall, there are two positions with some support: a) The location is terrible but because of a bunch of reasons it was the best we could do and b) the location is terrible and ST and/or the Port of Seattle should be ashamed of themselves.

    2. Flew into SeaTac earlier this week, and I saw lots of signage directing passengers to baggage claim, buses, taxis, etc. — everything except Train to Seattle.

      1. Did you see the “Link Light Rail” signs? Did you spend time pondering what visitors might think that means? Especially, how many of them would dismiss it as something irrelevant to them. O’Hare’s signs say “Train to City”. SeaTac is eventually going to need “Trains to Seattle and Tacoma”.

      2. A train around the airport, maybe?

        Those signs are much, much better than nothing, but they could be still better. I’d advocate clear signs for “Train to Seattle” and “Bus to Tacoma.”

    3. What they need to do is put a new station at the new terminal. It will make coming and going a lot easier, and from what I understand, the new international terminal will be built right next to the tracks anyway…

    4. I do wish the new International Arrivals Hall plan could have included discussions of building a “SeaTac/Airport South” Link station. Multiple airport stations are common practice, the elevated guideway will be a mere 250′ from the facility on its way to S. 200th, and a station would shave off 94% of what will otherwise be a 4000′ walk from the furthest reaches of Concourse A.

      1. If an Airport – South station were to be built, Zach, then the same case can be made for a station at Campus Pkwy or at Northgate Way. I think it’s up to the Port to improve cross-airport accessibility (there are three separate trains running across 6 concourses). The issue of getting to the train faster should be left to the Port and not at the expense of ST.

      2. I expect an expansion of the airport’s internal underground people mover system to help alleviate this. I don’t think the new international arrivals hall will be a stand-alone terminal.

    5. If we want to maximize light rail ridership from the airport, then we have to bundle a couple light rail tickets with each incoming flight. Charge an extra $6 “airport access fee” to pay for the bundled light rail tickets.

    6. What gets me is for late night flights when Link has ended for the night its almost impossible to get to the buses on the street outside like the A, they close the footbridge at the station to get to the bus stops on Pacific Highway. I had to run across with my luggage all those airport expressways and down all these steep grades to make it to the bus on highway 99.

      Did they ever consider having the tracks run elevated over the arrivals/departures ramps with a station right at the airport and could still run through and on south? Or was this shot down because of stupid 9/11 paranoia that a terrorist could somehow attack aboard a train but of course no concerns with a terrorist in a random private vehicle pulling right up to the airport?

  2. Is this sort of prolonged testing something that happens to every train? If so, wouldn’t it be the manufacture’s job to test? What sort of failures are they hoping to catch early. With the exception of a complete braking failure, how big of a deal would a failure be? Trains aren’t new. Don’t we have a general idea how to build them right the first time? I guess it doesn’t really matter given the trains will simply be sitting in traffic anyhow, but I’m curious anyhow.

    1. It’s a federal standard for all trains to be tested in this fashion. So basically it’s part of the regulations that make thins safer in America than in other part so of the world. Just because we as a society have been building trains for a long time, doesn’t mean the manufacturer or the people working there have been. You need to maintain quality, in fact these standards came about precisely because we have been building trains for so long and people who came before us recognized that we need these high standards.

      1. The extended testing is totally unnecessary for most trains, a needless piece of time-wasting federal overkill… Denver is spending months testing their new A Line trains on their new A Line track when it’s bloody obvious that everything is working fine (and all the parts are off-the-shelf for both track and train).

        …however, Seattle’s trains have actually had gobs of problems some of which were identified in testing, so they probably do need the testing!

    2. Yes, all new systems go through a large amount of testing before they carry paying passengers.

      ST will have to do the same thing with U-Link (and I *believe* they have already started).

    3. Link’s initial testing was a year if I recall. The airport extension and U-Link extension are around three months. Because regulations.

    4. Just for the record, a streetcar is not a train. Seattle streetcars have no couplers allowing them to be entrained. If “streetcar” is too much of a mouthful, the correct shorthand name is “car”, short for streetcar. So please, it’s not a “train.”

      1. @Aeronathan,

        That might just be an O&M coupler for shunting the thing around in the maintenance bays. Couplers for operational use have to be qual’ed for higher weights and also have to include electrical control paths (I believe).

        That said however, there is no reason that streetcars can’t be coupled together, and doing so is fairly common in some European cities.

    5. For what it is worth, the Dallas cars (which are also wireless cars and a completely new from the ground up first ever production design) have been in regular service since April. The first car was delivered in March of 2015 and the second car was delivered in May. (So for a while they were operating in regular service with just one car.)

      Thus, no, even with USA regulations this isn’t what many places would do. Dallas had their line running with about a month between first car delivery and start of regular service.

      However, I am also not surprised about the time required. The cars in Dallas were made by Brookville Equipment, which did complete rebuilds of 1950s era PCC cars for the streetcar lines in Philadelphia, and has built deep underground battery mining locomotives and other equipment for many decades. Thus, they know USA transit and streetcar requirements and they know battery traction power systems.

      These are new cars but from a manufacturer that doesn’t regularly deal with the transit market in the USA, and may or may not have battery powered traction experience (I can’t tell if they work in the mining equipment industry or not like Brookville does.) Thus, it is not surprising that there will be a few teething issues.

      1. They also had a DART police car with lights on literally trailing every streetcar, I was in Dallas right after it opened and saw this and told this. Such a waste thanks to antiquated anti-rail federal rules.

    6. Manufacturer isn’t qualified to operate streetcars on the mainline, same with Link. The manufacturer does all the big testing in the yard, then we take it out and see if it works. A big part of these trains are computers now, so testing to see if they do what their told. Yesterday while operating my train just popped up with a door error and the train was disabled for an hour! I had the techs on board and they didn’t anticipate it happening. While “trains” are not new, this technology we are putting into service is.

      So far in my test operating, traffic mainly exists at Yesler/Boren. On average trips are taking about 22-25m off peak, and 30-35m 4:30-6:30 (I don’t work AM so I don’t know those patterns). After we clear Boren, we tend to beat everyone to Jackson/12 and its pretty smooth to PSq.

      Our streetcars actually do have couplers, not for the purpose of multiple car consists, but for towing.

      And the manufacturer calls them “trams”….even when booting up the screen says “Tram is booting…”.

      I hope I have answered some questions……

  3. I can’t believe they’re still mostly giving out warnings to folks they catch crossing the double white line for the 405 toll lanes. It’s incredibly dangerous, especially in heavy congestion when the toll lane is moving 40 mph faster than the regular lane. Anyone who pleads ignorance is most likely lying, but if they’re sincere, they shouldn’t be driving, because it means they’re completely ignoring a TON of highway signs to do something very dangerous.

    I’ve driven past there en route to North Cascades hiking with my wife most weekends since it opened, and I’ve loved it. Every time, though, I eventually move into the left HOV lane because I don’t trust all the SOV drivers in congestion to obey the double white line. Invariably, I see one or more people violate it, somewhere between 520 and 522, and I’m always glad to be clear of them.

  4. Shared parking on Capitol Hill might be useful at the margin (like if the building next door has parking), but I don’t see it as a game changer. Some issues:

    1) Convenience. If you have to walk a block or 3 to and from your car, it is much less useful.
    2) Safety. If you get home late, walking home alone at night may be a dealbreaker.
    3) Access. My building’s garage could theoretically be shared, but management would have to issue key fobs to non-residents and grant them access to the building lobby in order to get into the garage at night. That might be more trouble than it is worth.
    4) Size of parking spaces. Unless you drive a rather small car, good luck fitting it into many of the spaces in newer buildings.
    5) Availability. Although taken as an article of faith that there are wide open garages all over Capitol Hill, I can only speak to my building’s garage which still seems to be mostly full, despite the substantial increases in rent and parking fees that are coming through.

    1. My small building only has 5 parking spaces for 12 units, and there’s a waiting list that’s unlikely to change because the parking is underpriced ($75/month). But there are half a dozen new market rate buildings within 1/4 mile of me, and for the right price I’d pay for a space there instead. But in the nearly 2 years we’ve lived there, we haven’t even bothered to get an RPZ because we’ve always found free street within 4 blocks, either on 10th or on Aloha.

      1. My chuckle for the morning — “we’ve always found free street parking within 4 blocks.” For the young and vigorous with little to carry back and forth between car and home, that may be workable. But for the rest of us, not so much. Worst being trying to remember *where* in that 4-block radius we parked the last time.

      2. Some people are perpetually lucky and say they can always find parking on Capitol Hill. Others circle for half an hour and give up and go somewhere outside the neighborhood.

      3. It’s also hard-won knowledge of the complex vagaries of parking restrictions. Where I live, west of 10th is one RPZ, east of it is another. The west side of 10th between Roy and Aloha is 2-hour free parking (which also means free parking from 6pm on Saturday through 8am Monday morning), while the east side of 10th between Roy and Aloha is entirely unrestricted, as is Aloha itself from 10th to 12th.

      4. My street always has plenty of parking, but it was recently RPZ’ed anyway because one cranky neighbor got a petition together with a vague sort of “keeping other people from parking on our street” appeal. I haven’t bothered to get the RPZ sticker not because it wouldn’t be useful but because getting one is a colossal pain: they want a copy of the registration (which means I have to take a trip to a copy shop some time to make one), a copy of an official bill proving my residence (at the house where they sent the form, no less; why can’t I use their own goddamn letter as a proof of residence, eh? But no, I have to wait for some paper bill to come in and remember to save it so I can take it along with me on the photocopy expedition), and then a paper check to pay for it all (which means I have to take a trip to the bank to get one, since I haven’t had an actual paper checkbook in years).

        Really annoying. Makes me want to get a bunch of traffic cones and litter the parking strip with them every now and then, just to mess with whichever neighbor it was that got this whole nuisance started.

      5. The size of your vehicle can impact your parking experience a lot. The 2 door Honda civic I used to have could fit into a lot of spots that bigger cars couldn’t.

    2. I thought buildings already leased unused parking spaces to neighboring residents or whoever would pay for them. When I lived in a pre-automobile building without any parking, that’s what I assumed some of my neighbors did, leased parking spaces in neighboring buildings.

      1. I was thinking the same thing. If this is simply a question of landowners getting together and signing private contracts between them, why does the city have to be involved at all? Any if it hasn’t already been going on to some extent for decades, why not?

    3. “access to the building lobby in order to get into the garage at night”

      Um, there has to be a garage door for the car to come out, so can’t they just give them a remote-control button for that? Perhaps the same button that they use to open the door for their car. Also, are you sure that the garage doesn’t have an access door next to it? My building has a stairwell between the lobby and garage, and if you go in that door then the door on the left is the lobby (locked) and the door on the right is the garage (open I think).

      1. I doubt management would want people using the garage door for access and walking along in the driveway. I’ve seen near-crashes at other garages. Too great a risk for too little reward.

        The only other access is via the street exit (which is also the emergency exit path for one of the stairways), but that is not ADA (if it applies) to the garage because of stairs. I’m also forgetting how the access controls are set up. I think there is just one locking door to access the whole stairwell, including to the garage – if so, that would require a second locking door to segregate the garage access from the residential access.

        All this is academic, really. The building has many more units than parking spaces – I’d guess the ratio is ~0.6 spaces per unit, maybe less. I doubt there will be so many open spaces that management would consider renting them to non-residents.

      2. The access questions really vary building to building. I know someone living in an older building in Seattle with no covered parking that has a nice car and rents a garage space under another apartment building. So it already works for some people without there being a program at all.

    4. I live in Capitol Hill between Broadway and I-5 and when I occasionally rent a car on the weekend I have to park many blocks away like in First Hill or east of 19th where there are no time limits. If I’m lucky I can park 4 blocks away. Its not the end of the world. The RPZ is no use to residents who don’t own a car but rent one occasionally while its great for residents who have cars and want to store them in the public right of way for an eternity for the grand sum of something absurd like $40 for two years. Nice to see how cheap it is for housing a car on 250 sq ft street space on Capitol Hill while humans have to pay about 1500 a month for 500 sq ft.

  5. I put this on the Sunday open thread– but people misunderstood what I was asking about. I asked for the 2016 ballot– that Seattle Subway/like-minded group use the monorail authority to put the WSTT or Ballard Spur as a backup if ST3 fails. Therefore the 2016 ballot would look like:

    Item 1) ST3 (assuming SDOT’s Ballard to downtown model (because of West Seattle light rail), no Ballard Spur or WSTT on ballot)

    Item 2) If ST3 does not get the votes, Seattle (using monorail authority) votes on Ballard Spur or WSTT. In other words, Seattle gets to vote on a backup plan if and only if ST3 fails. If ST3 passes, item 2 is moot.

    What is the horde’s thoughts from a strategic standpoint of this? (Previously, Seattle Subway has gone on the record in favor of both Ballard Spur and WSTT, and Keith Kyle of SS has said on this blog that they will be against ST3 if not grade-separated)

    1. I thought the legislation that created the monorail taxing authority specifically prohibited it from being used for light rail.

      1. Yes, the monorail taxing authority specifically CAN’T be used for LR. It is very specific about this.

        Basically the monorail taxing authority passed at the state level because some legislators saw it as a way of stopping ST and Light Rail. So LR is specifically excluded.

      2. Only about three Link stations are light rail stations. The rest are built to full scale metro / subway / heavy transit standards. Ballard to UW would be built entirely like a metro / subway.

        So, how did they go about defining what light rail is in this measure, in order to exclude it from the taxing authority?

      3. It seems to me than that the answer is to have another initiative giving a jurisdiction (city or county) the right to tax themselves sufficiently (as Sound Transit has). Of course it would be nice if the legislature gave us this right. But if not them, then an initiative makes sense. There is simply a disconnect between the amount of money a suburban area or urban area is willing to tax themselves.Likewise there is a big disconnect between the cost of appropriate projects. You can achieve a lot for relatively little in many a suburb (as Snohomish County has shown) but in an area like Seattle, it would cost more. Thus it makes sense to have different rates of taxation for the city versus the suburbs.

      4. From the law:
        (5) “Public monorail transportation facilities” means a transportation system that utilizes train cars running on a guideway, together with the necessary passenger stations, terminals, parking facilities, related facilities or other properties, and facilities necessary and appropriate for passenger and vehicular access to and from people-moving systems, not including fixed guideway light rail systems.

        Just don’t call it light rail – call it LINK or whatever.

      5. @Zach L,

        Just calling it something else won’t work Some crank (Faye Garneau anyone?) will sue and that will be that.

    2. @lazarus

      Whether or not it prohibits light rail, it could still be used to build some sort of grade separated transit line in the gaps that ST3 will leave.

      Not sure that 2016 is the right time though, we don’t want to take a chance at harming ST3’s passage with a competing project. On the ballot It will be seen as competing with ST3 no matter how you advertise it.

      1. Charles, I understand (which is why I asked), but do we expect the Dori Monson’s of the world/Seattle Times Editorial Board to write “Say No to ST3, but support the Seattle only measure”? This is a bit different than “I hate subways but I support BRT (until it is on the ballot)”

    3. Nothing prevents a citizens’ group from putting up another transit initiative at the same time as ST3. Whether that’s wise or not is a larger debate. But it would also depend on whether an initiative can tap into the monorail taxing authority. Since it’s a special-purpose authority rather than general authority (like sales tax and property tax), then maybe it can’t. And if an initiative does use up the tax capacity, then it would be unavailable for anything else the city might want to do. If ST3 fails, then there would doubtless be activist pressure on the city to use the monorail authority for something, and perhaps the city would come up with a better and more comprehensive use than these specific ideas. (But it had better not be a dumb monorail like the Monorail 1 or Monorail 2 plans.)

      I would just hope that any initiative that’s simultaneous with ST3 is well-written. The stakes are higher when it’s simultaneous rather than alone, because it might draw votes away from the main measure even if the campaign tries not to, and it might have unintended consequences if both pass. Also, a poorly-written initiative could end up squandering the monorail authority and preclude a better use for it.

    4. Two other thoughts. If a monorail-authority WSTT proposal comes after 2016, either sponsored by the city or as an initiative, then it would be a city-only measure and would likely pass anyway even in an off year.

      Second, if both measures are on the 2016 ballot in Seattle, then suburban voters would have only ST3 on their ballots. That might cause them to vote no on ST3 more than usual, knowing that Seattle has a backup plan for its urban-village delusions.

      1. Won’t the “hose Seattle” suburban voter vote against ST3 anyways? They would vote against their own self interest under sub-area equity? Again, I don’t see the Dori Monsons/Seattle Times editorial board stating vote No to ST3 because Seattle is voting in favor of its own way– it will be vote no for both.

      2. These aren’t “hose Seattle” voters, they’re “be kind to Seattle” voters. They just don’t want their own taxes raised, but they don’t care if another city raises them.

      3. Good point, Mike. But if trends continue, there is nothing in Seattle that appeals much to suburban voters. Light rail to West Seattle? Who cares. UW to Ballard light rail? I guess if you are coming from the south it might be nice to get to lower Queen Anne or Ballard a bit faster, but that is about it. That is basically only a subset, and only (I would imagine) those that are bothered by their evening commute. In the morning I would guess that heading to Ballard from downtown is reasonably fast.

        In contrast, UW to Ballard light rail would thrill the hell out of someone from the north who worked in Fremont or Ballard. That is hard part of their commute, and why they drive. UW to Lynnwood isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. But UW to Ballard or Fremont? Terrible.

        Generally speaking, I’m not sure if it would make much difference at all to the suburban voters. I don’t think they will assume that Seattle voters will do much either way. In short, such an initiative might very well kill ST3, but only because Seattle voters approve it.

    5. Oh. the monorail authority is for “fixed-guideway transit (excluding light rail)”. Trolleybuses are fixed-guideway (at least according to the IRS’s fixed-guideway tax credit), but self-powered buses are not. So would the WSTT require converting a substantial number of the bus lines in it to trolley? Could trolleybuses reach sufficient speed to give acceptable travel time in Ballard and West Seattle?

      Would trolley wires be feasable on the West Seattle bridge? Probably not, with cars going 55mph next to them and the buses prone to sudden stops if the trolley falls off the wire. If trolleybuses went on the low-level bridge instead, would the meandering route and rising bridge slow it to a crawl?

      1. Good God, the monorail initiative was such crap. Who the hell commits themselves to a particular technology? Insane!

        To be fair, the Eyman world we live in is much worse. Our representatives can’t tax us (Hey, I thought we lived in a republic?). As citizens we can’t even tax ourselves. That is insane and the cause of much of what ails this state (anyone want to talk about an income tax?).

        Sorry for the thread drift, Mike. Good information. It basically means we are screwed.

      2. There have been examples of trolleybus routes doing up to 50MPH in the past. In my experience, the newer fleet is not losing the wire nearly as often as the old one did. Clearly running all that wire would cost some $$. You could Jersey barrier off a trolley-only lane on the high bridge, I would think.

    6. Perhaps the city could ask the state to remove the restrictions on the monorail authority without changing the maximum rate. Then the legislature wouldn’t be raising anybody’s taxes, just adjusting other parts of a policy.

  6. “September polling for Move Seattle is very strong, 63-34%, before recent bad press.”

    Is the press any worse than it has long been for any transit or multimodal measure? I can’t remember the last time the Times editorial board liked any non-highway-centric proposition.

    1. I think the Times really started ratcheting up criticism (implied, outside their editorial content) in recent weeks. It doesn’t help that their recent piece on Garneau is pandering to the readers who are absolutely fawning over her as some kind of savior.

      1. Reading the Times comments makes would make one think we live in Mississippi or Texas. Where are all those conservative people in Seattle? Answer: They’re not.

      2. The Times really need to consider getting rid of their commenting system. It’s become more troll-ish and inflammatory than ever it seems in the past few months.

      3. One commentary article a few years ago said these are the kinds of letters aren’t anything new; in the pre-Internet days they went to the Letters to the Editor. The difference is that the editors used to route them to the wastebasket, and now they’re published online.

      4. During the Gridlocked event at UW tonight someone said “Great newspapers in this country have always played a role in starting conversations”. I thought about just every newspaper in this country but the Seattle Times.

      5. The Times news articles are good; it’s just the editorials that are often clueless. And the proofreading has gone downhill the past few years.

  7. I believe that any parent who drops-off or picks-up their child from school, blocks a public road, when the long line of parent-filled cars spills out onto a public road, should be fined no less than $200 dollars per infraction. Furthermore, I believe police officers should be assigned to grade and middle schools to catch and ticket these narcissistic human beings.

  8. “U.S. and Canadian officials today will hold a ceremony at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, to mark 20 years of Amtrak’s Cascades route to Canada.”

    That’s an ironic location for the ceremony given how little BC or Canada has invested in the corridor between the border and the station. It would make more sense to hold it at King Street Station, since Washington has invested the most in Cascades and Seattle just restored the station.

    1. “Canadian officials will celebrate 20 years of getting something for nothing.” There, I corrected it for them.

    2. How long does it take to get to Vancouver, anyway? Do they still do a check at the border? It is crazy to me that they don’t inspect the cargo (and passengers) while the train is in motion. If you have a bomb, it would go off before it crossed the border. If you are smuggling something, then you can check while the train is in motion.

      I would take a train up to Vancouver several times a year if there was a fast way to get there without driving.

      1. Northbound, no check until arrival at Vancouver. Southbound, stops in Blaine for 10-15 minutes.

      2. The official travel time is four hours, up from 3:45. The speed limit is slow north of the border, and the train can stop for 10-20 minutes waiting for a freight train to cross the Fraser River. Passport control is at Pacific Central Station both ways. Customs check is at Pacific Central northbound, and on the train between the border and Bellingham southbound.

      3. Thanks guys. As bad as always. I can drive it in three hours (assuming around fifteen minutes at the border). So I get to spend an extra hour on a train even though most civilized parts of the world could probably do those 150 miles in an hour. USA! USA! Oh, and Go Canada Go! Go Canada Go!

        I actually love both countries and couldn’t remember the Canadian cheer. But a little Google search and I found it. I also found this, which makes me love our northern neighbors even more:

    3. It would make more sense to hold it at King Street Station, since Washington has invested the most in Cascades and Seattle just restored the station.


      They just got a Liberal government that has made several announcement about reversing the anti-rail (both freight and passenger) positions of the previous administrations. Primarily the talk has been aimed at services well east of Thunder Bay. Perhaps something like this can be a speck that starts the snowball rolling out here on that other coast that everyone on both sides of the border seems to forget exists.

  9. Was Freighthouse Square the southern terminus of the Interurban?

    And, what was around the station in the early 1900s? Were there neighborhoods within walking distance or was it already large-scale industry? If nobody lived near the station and cars were not prevalent yet, then how did people get to the station? (Of course, horse and buggy, but my question is more about the distance of the station from the population, whether it was as isolated as it is now. Or did Tacoma have streetcar lines to the station?)

    1. No, IIRC Freighthouse Square was one of the two termini for the Milwaukee Road, with trains from Snoqualmie Pass splitting at Renton/Black River to terminate in Seattle or Tacoma. As far as I know, the Interurban approached Tacoma by climbing from Algona through a short tunnel to Milton/Edgewood and then through Fife, still the shortest distance rail line ever built between Seattle-Tacoma. In Downtown Tacoma, I think it was street running, integrating with Tacoma’s numerous other streetcars.

      Would love a history buff to correct me or fill in more info.

      1. Milwaukee Road freight trains to Tacoma terminated on the Tideflats and their passenger trains went to a passenger depot a few blocks closer to downtown than the freight house.

        The Milwaukee did not terminate any of their freight trains in Seattle. Their trains went to and from Tacoma. Seattle cars were either exchanged at Black River near Renton or up at Van Asselt near Boeing Field, depending on the time frame. A switch engine would shuttle those cars to and from the Seattle yard.

      2. There are some great old photos posted inside the building from old Milwaukee days–I am particularly fond if the idea that skiers could ride the train straight to the slopes.

      3. Switzerland has trains to ski areas, as does the novel Ecotopia (where our hero takes a train from the Nevada border to San Francisco).

      4. The Milwaukee did not terminate any of their freight trains in Seattle. Their trains went to and from Tacoma. Seattle cars were either exchanged at Black River near Renton or up at Van Asselt near Boeing Field, depending on the time frame. A switch engine would shuttle those cars to and from the Seattle yard.

        The UP and Milwaukee cooperated very heavily, and you will see Milwaukee passenger cars and locomotives in UP paint so that through routed cars could operate as a single color scheme train.

        Freight houses like what Freight House Square used to be were very common in any city or town or even a place that wasn’t even a town yet. These buildings were used to store freight that was moving between local origin / destination and freight cars if the customer didn’t have a siding into their building. Today, you either build a siding to such a customer or you send it by intermodal trailer or container. Railroad companies don’t handle any less than carload shipments – palletized shipments are pretty much the domain of trucking and similar freight companies.

        These freight houses still exist, but they are owned by trucking companies or by the customer. For example, the huge Target warehouse between Olympia and Lacy serves the same function as the railroad freighthouse, but only for Target. They break up truck trailers filled with shipments into shipments for local delivery on local trucks.

  10. I am seeing a lot more testing on the First Hill streetcar. The only difference between now and operation is we can’t actually ride the test cars.

    Since the only thing left for the First Hill streetcar is the car testing, couldn’t operations be phased in, starting at hourly with the first car that passes tests, then half-hourly when two cars are ready, and just keep adding cars until the entire system is ready?

    1. First no cars are ready, none have made it over the hump. Next, this would be a logistical nightmare. Right now we can send out the cars whenever we want, in any fashion we want. Yesterday the car I was operating had a malfunction that had us stopped for an hour, couldn’t move the car, right on Jackson. So if you have in service cars mixing with testing cars, you get bad service and you back on this blog complaining how cars keep breaking down etc etc. Then you have to create schedules for the one car, change them for the second car, its just too complicated. Its easier to wait until majority of it is ready and good to go before we start a service plan.

      1. So your stated running time of up to 35 minutes end to end in the PM is without stopping for passengers. Have you seen any schedules of running times while in service lately?

      2. While it is not stopping for passengers, we are stopping at platforms to record battery data. There are no schedules yet because we have not been able simulate service yet. Although today we set a record of 41m inbound at 5:20pm.

    2. please tell me it isn’t going to take 35-41 minutes end to end on the new streetcar at a typical rush hour!

  11. I don’t quite agree with the sidewalk article. I understand that upfront, 150 blocks vs. 250 blocks for the same price sounds sexy. Asphalt degrades quite a bit quicker than concrete to a very rough surface and has quite a bit less resistance to root upheaval and cracking. Concrete will last a lifetime. The upfront cost is well worth it.

    1. I used to be under the same impression, but I’ve been really impressed with some asphalt sidewalk that’s been installed near me. Way better quality then they used to be. If folks are really balking at the cost I’d rather secure the safe ped ROW now and go with the cheaper material.

    2. Asphalt is actually a nicer sidewalk material than concrete — it has more give under the foot, it’s less harsh.

      It’s also easier to repair when it’s attacked by tree roots or weather. With concrete, you have to cut out an entire square; you can patch asphalt.

      Concrete does NOT last a lifetime; there are lots of concrete sidewalks in my home town which were built in my lifetime and have already had to be replaced for one reason or another. Concrete behaves particularly badly when it gets a lot of salt exposure; asphalt holds up better under those conditions.

      1. Err, the flexibility (or give) of asphalt vs concrete is on the scale of large semi trucks, not shoes.

        Easy to repair depends on a lot: asphalt, you have to saw cut out sections, lay new asphalt, compact it (time consuming for small sections to avoid damaging other sections of asphalt) and make sure the transitions are seamless. Concrete, like you say, you cut out the damaged square between existing joints and re-pour. Seamless, except for the brighter color. Not to mention asphalt joints then become susceptible to potholing, but not as big a deal under pedestrian conditions.

        Asphalt is more likely to have uneven settling issues, leading to standing water. Look at the Burke-Gilman. It’s easier to pour smooth, evenly sloped concrete panels that are much less susceptible to ponding.

        Look at some of the concrete sidewalks in the old neighborhood downtowns in Seattle. A lot of them are older than most people on this blog. Sure there’s some upheaval due to roots (less of an issue these days due to root barriers and trees that grow downward, not out), but a lot of the panels are still very much in tact. And salt isn’t really an issue here in Seattle.

  12. A driver videos a drive through the Anzob Tunnel. They call it the tunnel of death. Entering the tunnel, I think the driver says “Welcome to hell.”

  13. CT’s usage of the Mountlake & Northgate ramps highlights an issue of “empowerment” for drivers and area transit agency’s ability to innovate (or lack thereof). I’ve always hated when both Metro and CT (or First Transit) drivers would slog through I-5 traffic when there were a plethora of alternatives to get around it and still serve required stops. CT’s decision to bypass traffic on the Mountlake and Northgate ramps (and operate on 405 shoulders) show that they are thinking outside of the box. I can only hope they will start allowing drivers to choose alternative streets/ramps in downtown to operate on during inbound trips, instead of sometimes spending 15-20 minutes crawling through a mere few blocks of gridlocked traffic.

    1. 520 westbound is another example, where the 108th Ave. exit, with the HOV entrance ramp immediately on the other side, provides an excellent option to bypass traffic jams between 405 and the 108th Ave. bridge where the HOV lane begins.

      At first, only about 10% of bus drivers used it, then the percentage slowly increased as the drivers talked to each other during coffee breaks. By September, about 90% of route 545 and 542 drivers knew about the 108th Ave. bypass, but then Metro Transit shuffled drivers around, and now we’re right back to where we were before. Perhaps there are even some drivers who know about the bypass, but are afraid to use it for fear of getting into trouble for going off-route.

      1. About ten years ago when I was commuting on the Kingsgate buses, the afternoon drivers actually headed south on 405, looped through NE 8th St and headed back north on 405 to Kirkland because it was faster than crawling on the lone ramp from 520 to 405.

        I haven’t commuted on that side in a while, but seen the new ramps. I bet they do provide an excellent traffic bypass!

      2. They were still doing that the last time I was a regular commuter in Kingsgate, around 3 years ago.

        In fact, that is an officially Metro sanctioned reroute that the transit control center can order drivers to follow or drivers can use it at their discretion (and report to a coordinator that they used it).

      3. Thanks for the explanation; I’ve been needlessly sitting in traffic there twice in the last week or so.

        I just sent off an email to Sound Transit asking them to please let the 542/545 escape traffic there. Does anyone have any other suggestions for things we can do to help this?

  14. I’m super excited about the CCC! I’m glad to see downtown is getting some much needed transit infrastructure improvements after a few years of stagnation. The linked article is very right that there should be opportunity to infill the CCC route in front of the SAM if we want to in the future. I gave them that feedback at the open house too, and hopefully there will be more opportunity to comment on the project to get that infill possibility in.

  15. Heads up! Madison BRT meeting on Nov 16th at 5:00 at the Seattle Public Library

    + “review the latest Madison Corridor BRT design concept and see how we are responding to community input”

    + “Discussions will focus on the latest design opportunities, including a new Madison Valley routing option and a potential future extension of BRT service to Madison Park.”

  16. The OMF will go in the Spring District. Another victory for density!

    I’m surprised to see it took this long to be an official decision. In a couple of decades that land will have quadrupled in value and Sound Transit will profit handsomely.

  17. Above me, there is a subthread going about Metro and Sound Transit drivers using different approaches to avoid traffic. Which, to me, raises the question: Why is Metro/Sound Transit so rigid about some things but so wildly variant on others? Why can drivers not deviate from a route in a method that would skip no stops but are given a free hand to stop basically wherever they like within several feet of a stop?

    I may or may not be a little irritated at the varying places that routes 545 and 3 drivers have been stopping. 545 drivers, in particular of late, seem to enjoy pulling up to a moderately-occupied stop with a handful of people waiting in line and then cruising half a bus length past the stop pole just to see how we react. And then the various route 3 drivers, especially in the late evening, have been stopping all over the place, both on 3rd and on the layover on James. I don’t mean to be too critical but some consistency would be nice…

    1. Oh, and while I’m at it: Whomever designed the location of the shelter at eastbound 520 and Overlake needs to actually try to get off at that stop. Mid-day is fun to disembark, I can only imagine how awesome it looks when a fully-loaded 545 empties out right next to that shelter with everyone going every which way. No wonder the grass behind that stop is trampled into dirt.

  18. Asphalt sidewalks are actually nicer to walk on than concrete sidewalks. So what if they last slightly less long — if they’re cheaper, DO IT NOW.

    I mean, that’s what we do with roads for cars, isn’t it? We should be using durable brick, or durable concrete, but we only do that for roads which will take a really heavy beating from high truck or bus traffic. We use cheap asphalt for the rest.

    There is no sidewalk which takes a beating hard enough to need to be concrete.

  19. Re CCC, how is the additional service subsidy to be covered? That connecting the weak lines would make them more useful is necessary but insufficient to make the CCC a sound project. It should also be more productive than alternative projects that could use the same funds and right of way. Is this a good time to tear up First Avenue? Is this a good time to tear up Broadway for the extension project; Link is about to open. The two existing lines are already connected by the Link and bus network. Trust the grid!

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